While the total volume of people taking the GMAT over the last year fell marginally from the year before, and again from it’s all-time high in 2009, the percentage of those test-takers who were women or from racial minorities grew significantly in the 2010-2011 GMAT season.
Below are some of the most significant shifts in the test taking population from 2011:
The percentage of female test takers increased for the sixth consecutive year to 41%, which is up from 39% just two years earlier. The fastest growing group to mention in the GMAT pipeline is the under 24 year old population, which has exploded since 2007 – reflecting the push for those seeking post-graduate degrees to do so more quickly than in the past, mainly due to the abysmal job market.
These changes reflect the larger trend in higher education for an increasing amount of minority and international students to apply and be accepted to post-graduate programs across the globe.
The numbers of women and minorities in MBA programs remain low. Overall, women make up approximately half of the population and only about 30% of top MBA programs. Minorities make up about a third of the population of the United States, and yet only 7% of top MBA programs. Many schools and organizations are working to improve these numbers.
Minorities, especially African-Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans, are not well-represented in business schools across the United States. The reason for their low numbers has to do with many complicated factors—including historical, social, and educational ones. The National Society of Hispanic MBA’s suggests that the lack of representation in business school is due to a lack of role models, difficulties financing the degree, and lack of knowledge about the worth of an MBA (compared to the clear understanding of what a Medical degree or Law degree leads to). The National Society of Hispanic MBA’s and the National Black MBA Association are also working to increase the numbers of minority MBAs through grants and scholarships, mentor programs, GMAT preparation assistance, and admissions consulting.
Women too are not well-represented in business schools across the United States. Interestingly, women do make up an equal proportion of undergraduate business graduates, but somehow these numbers drop dramatically in MBA education. The most commonly suggested reasons are concerns in the late twenties and early thirties about starting families and the “biological clock.” Law and medical schools tend to attract younger applicants and thus maintain pretty much equal proportions of men and women. However, some schools, in particular Dartmouth’s Tuck Business School, have noticed an increase in the number of women attending. Through mentor programs and an impressive female alumni network, Tuck Women in Business has been successful at increasing their proportion of women to 33% more than any other business school. The lack of women in MBA programs contributes to a lack of women later on in corporate leadership roles. There are currently approximately 11 women CEOs at Fortune 500 companies, but groups like Tuck Women in Business are working to improve these numbers in the future by providing women with mentors and encouragement to return to or stay in the business world as they fulfill family roles.
Issues of gender are discussed during the studies in relation to the experience of women in the workforce; notably, the differing role of networks for men and women has been an interesting topic of discussion in the program. They found that women tend to network more naturally across organizations and to have stronger contacts within their group of peers. Men, on the other hand, build stronger networks upward, which leads to better opportunities to promotion. Women, therefore, are at a noticeable disadvantage in terms of networking upwards within their organizations.
Another instance of behavioral differences between men and women that Buchel discusses happens during the job application process. When looking at a job description, women tend to become discouraged by the requirements they feel they are not qualified for, usually opting not to apply at all. However, men on average who are faced with the same situation tend to apply anyway, with a more optimistic and less hesitant attitude. These discussions of behavioral trends help the women to recognize their own tendencies and disadvantages, allowing them to be conscious of and improve in these areas.
When asked why Europe has lagged behind the US in terms of business programs for women, Buchel states that the issue of women in management hasn’t been on the forefront of corporate attention in Europe. The scarce number of women in executive positions has limited the viable market for such programs. However, these programs have been picking up more and more in Europe, especially since Scandinavian countries have begun to have much stronger female participation in management. Female representation on the political front, such as Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel, has also pushed the agenda of female leadership on the forefront in Europe. The establishment of programs such as Buchel’s has certainly created a unique example of how we can both recognize and promote the leadership of women in the workforce.
In a recent interview with BusinessWeek, Bettina Buchel, director of IMD’s Strategic Leadership for Women program, discusses the experience of women in the executive management work force. IMD (International Institute for Management and Development), a global business school based in Lausanne, Switzerland, was the first business school in Europe to establish an executive education program geared specifically towards women. The program is part of IMD’s Open Enrollment program. It typically lasts for 4 days. The same program runs twice a year.
Buchel began the Strategic Leadership for Women program six years ago in 2002 to create an opportunity for women to explore different styles of leadership. The program focuses on two main areas: leadership and strategy implementation. It offers a unique environment for women to exchange experiences on situations within the workplace and learn how to promote themselves, all within a setting where they are not self-conscious of being the minority. 300 women have gone through the program, ranging from women in senior positions to women in their first five to ten years out of university. Buchel emphasizes the importance of this emerging issue of women in management, stating that of the Fortune 1000 companies, less than 50% have women representation in their top management teams.
What kinds of changes do these women implement in the workplace? Women who come out of this program become much more conscious about networking, having been shown a visual representation of how they network. They make efforts and adjustments at improving their upward networking and are also encouraged to come up with new responses to difficult situations in the workplace, having shared accounts of such experiences with each other during the course of the program.
The demand for such programs is heightening in Europe, with new programs being established in different cities, including London. Buchel also directs a program called Orchestrating Winning Performance, which has included more women and has been creating more activities geared towards women. Although women make up about 10% of traditional programs such as this one, the growing number of participating women is an important indicator of a shift in the agenda of women in management.
Women are in demand in graduate management educational programs of all kinds.
Let us take a look at the 2007 statistics released by the GMAC in reference to gender representation. In part-time MBA programs, women represent 37% of the total. In full-time MBA programs, just 27% of MBA students are women. In EMBA programs, a meager 22% of students are women. Though women represent a larger percentage of the student body in non-MBA management education including undergraduate and master’s programs, it is still the case that in all categories women represent a minority of applicants.
Though overall far fewer women than men pursue Graduate Management Education, numbers of women applicants are on the rise. In 2007, applications from women increased overall. These increases are in large part due to greater recruitment efforts. 56% of full-time MBA and 78% of EMBA programs are actively recruiting among women. Such recruitment seems to have a direct correlation to increases in the volume of women applicants.
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